PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Twelve local teachers set out on a three-day cruise aboard a University of Rhode Island research vessel in October and brought what they learned back into their classrooms.

Chrissie Demoranville is a first-grade teacher at Robert Bailey Elementary School in Providence. She was one of the twelve aboard the R/V Endeavor.

Chrissie Demoranville aboard the R/V Endeavor. Courtesy Chrissie Demoranville

“It was, honestly, one of the best experiences I ever had,” she said. “From the food, to the science, to the people that I met.”

In the summer of 2018, 12 News Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo had the opportunity to go on a similar teacher-at-sea cruise with other educators.

On the cruise, teachers conduct science experiments like gathering mud cores, collecting plankton, and seeing how water pressure impacts a Styrofoam cup.

“It provided them with an opportunity to really get a smattering of oceanography during the three days at sea,” said Andrea Gingras, the assistant director of public engagement at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

“We asked them to collaborate with one another to create activities that can be brought back into a classroom,” Gingras added.

“My brain was ticking … all of our brains were ticking,” Demoranville recalled when asked how the teachers created lessons and collaborated with each other.

Teachers aboard the Teachers-at-Sea Cruise in October. Courtesy Chrissie Demoranville

12 News had the opportunity to see a lesson prepared from Demoranville’s experience aboard the Endeavor.

Her first graders gathered on the class rug to learn about the Sargassum Sea and its plant and animal life. The sea is an area of the Atlantic Ocean, located southeast of New England.

A Sargassum crab. Courtesy: Chrissie Demoranville

The kids were also able to touch some seaweed in a hand-made touch tank.

In a previous lesson, Demoranville showed her students the differences between mud collected from her trip, sand found just offshore a Rhode Island beach, and dry beach sand. Her “oceanographers in training” did very well with that lesson, according to Demoranville.

“I think seeing their teacher experience something like this, learning new things, is pretty motivating for the kids because they look at teachers like they are the almighty … they know everything,” she explained. “But, we don’t know everything. We learn also. Every day is an experience.”

“Incorporating ocean science topics into elementary schools is a way to really spark the interest of students to continue that love for science and hopefully ocean science,” Gingras said.

URI’s Teachers-at-Sea Cruise has rolling admissions and usually occurs in the fall. The program is free for teachers and URI also helps to pay for substitute teachers if they are needed.

The R/V Endeavor in 2018

The R/V Endeavor is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the University of Rhode Island. In the spring of 2024, a new research vessel, the Narragansett Dawn, is expected to be delivered to URI. Currently, there work is being done to the pier at the URI-GSO to accommodate the much larger ship.